Draft Talent Waits at 26


On Wednesday, BaltimoreRavens.com took a look at why the Ravens might want to move down from the 26th spot in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Trading back would yield more picks, which are a premium for any personnel department around this time.

But what if they decide to stay?

History suggests that the Ravens would be fine with that.

Over the years, general manager **Ozzie Newsome** has managed to find gems in the late first round.

Many of the players that Newsome has tabbed went on to become major contributors for the Ravens.

Linebacker Ray Lewis![](/team/roster/ray-lewis/1c6d5ed3-fe49-4a89-a6b5-9e358e906ae7/ "Ray Lewis") was picked 26th, and he has 10 Pro Bowls to his credit. Tight end **Todd Heap** (31st in 2001) and safety Ed Reed![](/team/roster/ed-reed/89ece203-7de4-4b40-9651-f16f4c3b7699/ "Ed Reed") (24th, 2002) also have multiple All-Star appearances. Wideout **Mark Clayton** (22nd, 2005) and guard **Ben Grubbs** (29th, 2007) have become key starters.

The tradition could continue this year.

"I'd say it's a deep draft, a lot of good football players," said director of player personnel **Eric DeCosta**. "We probably have five or seven players that we think have a realistic chance to get at 26 who can come in and contribute in Year One."

Last season, the Houston Texans drafted offensive tackle Duane Brown, who started all 16 contests. Brown, however, filled a gaping need for Houston.

It is a different situation in Baltimore.

Since they have been active since the start of free agency - plugging holes in the roster by adding several young players like cornerbacks **Chris Carr** and **Domonique Foxworth** and tight end **L.J. Smith** - and Joe Flacco![](/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco") is locked in as the franchise quarterback, the Ravens enjoy the luxury of truly picking the best player available.

That phrase gets thrown around by most teams prior to the draft, but Newsome and DeCosta say it honestly.

Dating back to the first draft in team history, Baltimore has followed that philosophy.

Even though Pro Bowl offensive tackle Tony Jones was a Raven in 1996, Newsome tabbed future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. Having talents like running back Priest Holmes and tight end Shannon Sharpe didn't stop the Ravens from selecting Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap.

"We realize where our football team is today," explained Newsome. "I think the acquisitions we've made during free agency put us in a position in the draft where it is a real strength for us, regardless of what position we're picking.

"Anybody that is special can come and make this football team better," he added. "If we had to play a game today, we could actually line up and play, and I think we'd have a good chance of winning."

The Ravens have been linked to various prospects.

Receivers Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina), Kenny Britt (Rutgers) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland) dominate most mock drafts, but cornerback Vontae Davis (Illinois) and linebackers James Laurinaitis (Ohio State) and Rey Maualuga (Southern California) have recently been added to the speculation.

Newsome, though, blocks out all the chatter of so-called draft experts, preferring to gather all the information he can so he can make the best decision at the appropriate moment.

"I have John Clayton calling me, I've got Peter King calling me, I've got everybody calling me, [Rick] Gosselin. I get tons of information," Newsome said. "But I was taught one thing when I was in high school - you can only catch a football when the ball gets there. So all I do is prepare myself, and when the time comes for me to pick, I pick.

"I take it all in, but I can't control 25 other players. I can't control them. But I can control the 26th player, and that's what I get myself prepared to do."

Whether that time comes at No. 26 or not remains to be seen. But if it does, the Ravens are confident they will discover a talent.

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